Crime

Jury reaches verdict in Columbus cab driver’s cold-blooded killing, robbery

Officer testifies why flashy running shoes helped authorities make arrest

Columbus Police Det. Stuart Carter testified murder suspect Devin Durden was identified in surveillance video by his unique Nike running shoes, ones Carter said he's never seen on a suspect in all of the criminal cases he's worked.
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Columbus Police Det. Stuart Carter testified murder suspect Devin Durden was identified in surveillance video by his unique Nike running shoes, ones Carter said he's never seen on a suspect in all of the criminal cases he's worked.

A jury found Devin Durden guilty on all but one count Friday in the 2016 cold-blooded murder of Columbus cab driver Dwayne Chronister.

After just a few hours deliberation, jurors found Durden guilty of felony murder for killing Chronister while committing the felony of armed robbery, using a firearm to commit a felony and armed robbery. 

They found him not guilty of malice or intentional murder, though testimony showed Durden gave no warning or provocation shot Chronister in the back of the head as the Warrior cab driver sat in the driver’s seat waiting for Durden and Dontavis Screws to pay their fare.

Judge Gil McBride set Durden’s sentencing for 9 a.m. March 22. Now 23, Durden could face life in prison.

Screws and another suspect in the case testified against Durden, saying he came to their Forsyth Street home on a bicycle about 4 a.m. on Oct. 17, 2016, and told them he needed money and a phone to call a cab.

Jasmine Thomas, Screws’ girlfriend at the time, used her cell phone to call the cab, telling the dispatcher about 5 a.m. that the customer would be waiting at the Mystik Food Mart, 645 Brown Ave., and needed a ride to Alabama.

When Chronister arrived at the store minutes later, he found no woman waiting there, and instead Durden and Screws got in. And instead of directing him to drive them to Alabama, they told him to go to the Parkwood Mobile Home Park, 527 Farr Road.

That’s where Chronister was told to stop in a cul de sac, and Screws and Durden got out, before Durden shot Chronister in the back of the head, took his cash, wallet and cell phone, and fled.

A surveillance camera at the trailer park entrance recorded the cab going in at 5:06 a.m., and two men walking rapidly away minutes later. The first police car arrived at 5:56 a.m.

A man living in the trailer park called 911 after he saw Chronister slumped over in the driver’s seat, with the back door to his cab standing open and the motor running. He was pronounced dead at the hospital at 11:05 a.m. He was 50 years old.

He was supposed to have had that day off. He had come back to work to try to make some extra money.

The videos

Along with Screws’ and Thomas’ testimony identifying Durden as the crime’s instigator and triggerman, jurors saw video surveillance from the Mystik Food Mart, showing Chronister picking up Screws and Durden, and showing the pair hanging out at the store the day before, when Durden was wearing the same outfit.

He wore a black hooded jacket, black sweat pants and a distinct pair of Nike Pegasus running shoes, which a detective reviewing the video said he’d never seen before.

When Durden was arrested in Phenix City the following November, authorities seized a bag of clothing that matched what Durden was wearing on the video, including the running shoes.

Screws, 23, already has pleaded guilty to manslaughter and robbery, and is expected to serve 20 years in prison.

Thomas, also 23, still faces charges in Chronister’s fatal shooting, as her case is yet to be resolved.

Tim Chitwood is from Seale, Ala., and started as a police beat reporter with the Ledger-Enquirer in 1982. He since has covered Columbus’ serial killings and other homicides, following some from the scene of the crime to trial verdicts and ensuing appeals. He also has been a Ledger-Enquirer humor columnist since 1987. He’s a graduate of Auburn University, and started out working for the weekly Phenix Citizen in Phenix City, Ala.
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